Flushing, NY — Jacob deGrom began his warm-up routine leading up to Game 2 of the National League Wild Card round with one goal: keeping the 2022 Mets season alive.
With Citi Field swarmed in with a sellout crowd of 42,156 waving rally towels, the scene of October baseball was picture-perfect.
As New York entered Saturday evening down 1-0 in the best-of-three series to the San Diego Padres, the Mets faithful counted on deGrom to be his vintage self. The elite-caliber baseball fans have come to expect out of the two-time Cy Young award winner each and every outing.
“Especially throwing here, win or go home,” deGrom said about the mindset going into Game 2. “Like I said, I love pitching here, and Mets fans have been great to me. Didn’t want to disappoint, so wanted to go out there and give us a chance.”
Other than Trent Grisham, who has homered in back-to-back nights, and Jurickson Profar (5-for-13 in the series with six RBI combined), deGrom seemed to have full control in his repertoire, piling on eight strikeouts, allowing two earned runs across six innings. Out of the 25 batters faced in Game 2, deGrom registered 13 first-pitch strikes.
“What he’s doing is really hard to do, and not many people in baseball can do it,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter on deGrom. “Those guys are on top of the game trying to take the second game and go home, and Jake just wouldn’t allow it.”
“He set the tone right from the start. He poured his heart out there for us,” said Pete Alonso about deGrom.
But, as we all know, sparks on offense are a necessity to survive in postseason baseball. And Saturday night included a surplus of those much-needed sparks.
Francisco Lindor propelled the Mets in the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run giving New York an early 1-0 lead. This marked Lindor’s sixth career postseason home run and first as a Met.
Lindor (Caguas, Puerto Rico), who won the 2016 American League LatinoMVP entered Saturday with drastically low career numbers against Snell, hitting .120 (3-25) with five strikeouts.
An additional spark rose in the bottom of the fourth inning as Brandon Nimmo slapped an opposite-field single to lift the Mets up 2-1.
Pete Alonso delivered in the clutch by clobbering a 90-MPH cutter, 402 feet off Padres reliever Nick Martínez in the bottom of the fifth inning, boosting New York’s lead to 3-2. Alonso, the 2019 National League LatinoMVP Rookie of the Year, has reached base in 11 of his last 13 against the Padres, dating back to June of 2021.
“Being able to come up clutch in a spot like that to get the lead, I mean, that was awesome,” Alonso said. “Hopefully, I can hit a few more like that tomorrow and moving forward.”
On a LatinoMVP note, Alonso and Lindor carrying the Mets is no surprise. With their heroic Game 2 performances, the reign on offense marked the sixth time this season that both Lindor and Alonso hit a home run in the same game. In addition, Alonso’s blast was his first career postseason home run.
“It was a very Mets-like game plan. Everybody played very well, and we stayed within ourselves,” Lindor said.
Nonetheless, the stadium speakers playing ‘Narco’ by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet were introduced earlier than usual, as Buck Showalter opted for Edwin Díaz to relieve deGrom in the seventh and eighth inning. A decision Showalter tested throughout the regular season in preparation for situations such as Saturday night.
With the bottom to the top of the Padres lineup coming up (Grisham, Nola, and Profar, followed by Soto, Machado, and Bell), Díaz depended on what works best: the unpredictability in his ferocious sliders and fastballs.
“I want to win the game. I want to help this team win,” said Díaz about the situation. “I was feeling great when I was pitching the eighth, so I asked him (Showalter), ‘one more batter.’ He told me I need you tomorrow. So when he told me that, I said okay, that’s fine.”
The 28-year-old of Naguabo, Puerto Rico, and 2018 American League LatinoMVP Reliever of the Year completed 1.2 scoreless innings with one strikeout, marking his fourth outing of 1.2 innings or more this season.
“They had Grisham there, which had been hurting us, and top of their order, which had been hurting us,” answered Showalter when asked about the decision. “I’m going to take my best pitcher and face their order, hope they don’t come up again.”
New York tacked on four insurance runs in the seventh inning from the swings of Jeff McNeil, Eduardo Escobar, and Daniel Vogelbach executing with runners on base. The trio combined for 2-for-7 with four RBI in the 7-3 Game 2 victory.
Game 3 of the NL Wild Card round between the Mets and Padres is slated for Sunday evening at 7:07 pm with everything on the line, a true win-or-go-home scenario. Right-hander Chris Bassitt (15-9, 3.42 ERA) is set to take the mound for New York as San Diego will trot out Joe Musgrove (10-7, 2.93 ERA).
“The moment is already massive,” Bassitt said. “Adrenaline is already — you don’t need Red Bulls anymore. You’re good.”
“The professional athlete in you is going to come out, and the competitor in you is going to come out,” Musgrove elaborated. “So you get as prepared as you can, and you go out there and just give it everything you’ve got.”
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